Jane Whitfield is not only a talented artist, but she’s always been drawn to teach and help others with their creativity. Jane holds regular classes for both children and adults, and is a firm believer in the power of art to transform lives.
Hi Jane. What brought you to Port Macquarie?
I’m an art teacher and artist. My husband, Haydn, and I moved to Port Macquarie in 2003, seeking a sea change from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. Port Macquarie seemed like the perfect coastal town to enjoy a relaxed lifestyle and raise a family.
In 2009 we had our first son, Abe, and two and a half years later our youngest son, Jake, arrived. We’ve considered this place paradise – our home – ever since.
What’s your artistic background?
I completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (with DISTINCTION) at UWS, majoring in Advanced Printmaking and Painting.
I’ve always been surrounded by art and had a paintbrush in my hand. My parents were avid art collectors and would take my brother and me to art exhibitions regularly. My mum was also a high school art teacher and sculptor; we would often visit art galleries and collect art books.
My upbringing really was culturally enriched; my parents encouraged me to create, draw and paint at a young age. My mother bought me my first visual arts process diary at five, to visually document experiences, draw interesting things I saw; I’ve kept one of these leather bound books every year since.
Looking back now, it was inevitable I would end up pursuing a career in the arts.
What art materials do you most like to use?
I like to work with watercolours and inks. I love how watercolours react in unexpected ways. I enjoy mixing inks with watercolours; it’s this interplay between the media – the colours react, pop, and come alive on paper.
I’m also a huge fan of printmaking, particularly lino. It’s the simplicity of lines, markings, scribed onto the board and the use of limited colour schemes that can be achieved in the printing process.
Left to your own devices, what would we most likely find you creating?
I’d be working on a lino print of barrelling waves; they would be intricate seascapes in black and white.
I’ve always been drawn to the famous Japanese artist, Hokusai; his most famous woodblock, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, influences me all the time. One day I hope to travel to Japan to draw, paint and have a solo exhibition based on my time over there.
Why were you drawn to teaching others art?
My passion has always been teaching art to children; it’s utterly rewarding seeing your students flourish. Some of my students I’ve taught since infancy, and they are now in Year 9 at high school. I really have a dream job; this is now my 13th year of teaching kids and adults in my Drawn to Art classes, and I love every minute of it.
Art is the purest form of self-expression; it enables us to draw and paint how we see the world around us, and it can be interpreted in a million ways. It’s a universal visual language translated through colour and subject matter.
My philosophy in teaching is encouraging individuals to have creative freedom, enabling them to use an array of different mediums and letting them explore their imaginations freely. Our class affirmation is “THERE IS NO SUCH THINGS AS MISTAKES, JUST HAPPY ACCIDENTS”.
Art is definitely therapy at times; I’ve had students with behavioural issues join my programme and within a short period of time, they’re quietly sitting down and drawing. Art is mindfulness and can never be underestimated as less important than other subjects. A child’s self-worth and confidence can shine through when they’re allowed to express themselves.
I was asked by my artist friend once, “Why do you like kids’ art so much?”, and I honestly think it’s because it’s uninhibited, exaggerated and bright. As we get older, we tend to lose this freeness in artmaking.
I once taught an adult landscape art workshop, where I had a 90 year old lady attend; she had never picked up a paintbrush, but always dreamed of painting. I asked her why she hadn’t tried this earlier; her reply: “I was too afraid to try something new, for fear of failing”. She did not want to use a paintbrush, so I urged her to use her fingers and a spatula to apply the paint to canvas. It was a moment in time I’ll never forget, where she became one with her art, totally immersed, and composed one of the most amazing impressionist style landscapes.
She actually went on to paint more art; it just shows the power of art and how it can impact and transform your life in a profound way.
What are some of your upcoming classes?
In the October school holidays, I will be running 12 art workshops in my Shelly Beach studio. These classes are designed for five – 16 year olds; beginners and advanced drawers are all welcome. We will be exploring mediums such as Hibiscus watercolours , animal collage mixed media, charcoal panda drawings, angel acrylic paints on canvas paper, rainbow spring landscapes using sponges and inks.
I’ve also introduced a parent and child workshop, where you can come and paint a pop art inspired portrait of each other.
School holiday classes can be booked on my Facebook page, Drawn to Art; scroll down the page to view the flyer details, or you can contact me for bookings on 0438 803 992.
Places fill fast; so hurry!
I also run Saturday art classes during school term; these classes are held for nine weeks, and there is a morning and afternoon class. I still have a few spots left, so if your child is interested, please contact me. To view what some of my students have been working on, head over to my Drawn to Art Facebook page.
You have a new bigger studio too! When will it be open?
Yes, it’s very exciting. Situated in Crestwood Heights, it’s a bigger space with a lovely saturation of natural light. The studio will be open and running at the end of October 2018. I’m really looking forward to introducing my students to this fresh, new area.
But for now, all my school holiday workshops and Saturday classes will still be held at my Shelly Beach studio.
Interview: Jo Robinson.